ISSN 2330-717X

Palestinians Intervene To Sue Settlers In Airbnb Lawsuit

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Palestinian landowners and West Bank residents filed to intervene in a lawsuit against Airbnb over the booking platform’s decision to remove listings for Israeli settlements in the West Bank in the occupied Palestinian territory.

Dual Israeli-U.S. citizen settlers whose listings are to be removed and potential renters filed the original lawsuit against Airbnb, claiming discrimination.

A Palestinian-American and two Palestinian villages, whose properties are the very properties that settlers have listed on Airbnb, filed counterclaims against the settlers, arguing that their actions constitute war crimes, crimes against humanity, and discrimination on the basis of religion and national origin. They also bring claims of trespass and unjust enrichment against the settlers who are on their lands. Another Palestinian-American and resident of the West Bank filed counterclaims against the settlers for discrimination. All four are represented by the Center for Constitutional Rights.

“Anyone looking at the facts can tell that we are the rightful owners of this land, no matter how the settlers try to spin it,” said Ziad Alwan, a Palestinian resident of Chicago who has the document proving that the land is registered in his father’s name, even though a settler runs a bed & breakfast on his land. “I am filing this lawsuit in my father’s memory, and for my own children, whom I’ve taught to never forget that this land is rightfully theirs.”

The filing argues that the Israeli settlers who sued Airbnb have participated in war crimes by aiding in Israel’s seizure of land in occupied Palestinian territory, including the specific lands on which the Airbnb properties stand. The rentals are in Israeli-only settlements from which Palestinian residents of the West Bank are barred as per Israeli military orders, and which are sometimes surrounded by physical barriers, military bases, and security gates.

“The settlers who sued Airbnb are cynically using the language of discrimination in order to further their own unlawful ends,” said Center for Constitutional Rights Staff Attorney Diala Shamas. “Our clients’ experiences –Palestinians who are directly affected by these settlers’ actions – show where the real discrimination and illegality lies. This case puts the settlers on trial in a U.S. court.”

In their lawsuit, the settlers have claimed discrimination under the Fair Housing Act—which attorneys for the Palestinian intervenors say turns the law on its head. They note that the properties the settlers wish to list on Airbnb are located in Jewish Israeli settlements that Palestinians are prohibited from entering and that the listings themselves indicate discrimination on the basis of national origin and religion.

“I’m bringing this lawsuit because I want to live in peace with my family and among my community without the constant looming threat of arrests, killings, nightly raids, demolition of homes, restrictions on movement, and so on—all part of the military occupation that serves to protect discriminatory settler practices,” said Randa Wahbe.

Lawyers say that not only has Airbnb not discriminated against the settlers who filed the lawsuit, but that, had it not de-listed the rentals, the company would be contributing to international law violations.

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